Under a partnership announced Tuesday between Brenau University and the High Museum in Atlanta, students will be able to take advantage of internships, guest lectures and "behind-the-scenes" planning.
Building partnerships with museums nationally and internationally since the 1996 Olympics took place in Atlanta, the High Museum is embarking on its first educational partnership, a new experience for both groups involved.
"In our experience of partnerships, either someone gets it or it's not worth pursuing, and based on the energy around this table, it's going to be very gratifying," Michael Shapiro, director for the High, said Tuesday to a mixture of museum officials and Brenau administrators and students in Atlanta.
"We're off to a really good start, and the great thing is, I don't know where it's going to go. It's up to us to define it."
For Ed Schrader, president of Brenau, the partnership is about bringing together two institutions that "do the same things but with different constituencies."
"One of the main components in liberal arts education is not just viewing but experiencing art," he said. "We're forever rethinking how to invoke that in students. More basically, the more people who see art will appreciate it, and then the more who will support it."
Shapiro said he hopes the partnership will become a model emulated by other museums, even internationally.
"What we need to be asking is, what do students want a museum to be?" he said. "And how will we do that?"
Shapiro and Schrader agreed they are looking for the "future of art museums," hoping to appeal to younger generations.
"I'm worried about the graying of the opera and the donors," Schrader said. "The next generation isn't coming to see the classical art with the appreciation and ability to support it."
Shapiro said this matches with his idea of drawing in a younger audience.
"One of our goals is to bring down the average age of visitors, so see this as an extension of your campus," he said to three smiling Brenau students. "Bring your laptop and coffee, see art and be with your friends. Let this be a visual library for you with the equivalent of great books."
Sophomore Julia Martin, junior Allison Murphy and senior Kelly Sullivan exchanged excited glances as Shapiro announced the opportunity to attend a guest lecture with contemporary artist Jeff Koons, preview the Salvador Dali exhibit opening in October and visit the museum's storage and conservation facility.
"This partnership is amazing, so anything I can experience from it will be fantastic," said Sullivan, who studies sculpture, drawing and painting. "And Koons. We talked about him for weeks in class."
Schrader also discussed exclusive dinners for Brenau donors and trustees, as well as a "Family Day" for Brenau students.
"The profile of many Brenau students today is someone who maybe has children and a very busy schedule," he said. "Students may not make time to come to the museum until their children are older and more manageable."
Shapiro toured the group through the "Allure of the Automobile" exhibit, which showcases 18 rare cars built between 1936 and 1961. He also took them "backstage" to see models of exhibits planned for fall 2010 through 2013, which include Dali and pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack from New York City's Museum of Modern Art.
"This is where we try out various things for upcoming shows," Shapiro told the students. "You now know where everything is. This is your new home."